A number of MPs have accused Prime Minister Theresa May of 'bringing shame on her office' for not condemning the actions of a special adviser who outed a gay activist, placing his family in danger.
Stephen Parkinson, a special adviser to Theresa May, released a statement about a former partner of his, Shahmir Sanni, a Vote Leave volunteer, who was about to reveal information that the Leave campaign broke electoral rules, in which he outed him as gay.
The statement read, 'Shahmir became an occasional volunteer for Vote Leave and other Leave campaigns, and we began a personal relationship. We subsequently dated for 18 months, splitting up - I thought amicably - in September 2017.
'That is the capacity in which I gave Shahmir advice and encouragement, and can understand if the lines became blurred for him, but am clear that I did not direct the activities of any separate campaign groups.
'I had no responsibility for digital campaigning or donations during the referendum, and am confident that Vote Leave acted entirely within the lay and strict spending rules at all times.'
The statement was subsequently removed from the political blog where it was first published.
'I represent Shahmir Sanni, who has provided information to the media as a whistleblower about matters relating to the conduct of the Vote Leave campaign during the EU Referendum.
'10 Downing Street tonight confirmed an official statement to the media on behalf of Stephen Parkinson, Political Secretary to the Prime Minister, disclosing my client's sexuality publicly. We believe this is the first time a Downing Street official statement has been used to out someone. My client is now having to come out to his mother and family tonight, and members of his family in Pakistan are being forced to take urgent protective measures to ensure their safety.
'It's sad that Stephen feels he can't tell the truth about cheating in the Referendum. I think he understands why I had to do the right thing and let people know what really happened. But I never imagined that he, with the help of Number 10, would choose to tell the world I am gay, in a last desperate attempt to scare me. This is something I've never told most of my friends or family, here or in Pakistan, some of whom are taking measures to ensure their safety.
'He knew the danger it would cause, and that's why he did it. My coming out should have happened at a moment of my choosing - not at the Government's. Some things are more important than politics and I hope that one day he agrees.'
Theresa May was pressed over the issue in Parliament on Monday 26th March, but refused to condemn the actions, instead claiming that it was a 'personal statement' from Parkinson.
'Any statements issued were personal statements.' May responded to questions during Parliament put forward by Labour MP Ben Bradshaw. 'They were personal statements. They were personal statements that were issued.
'I of course recognise the importance of ensuring that we do recognise that for some, being outed as gay is difficult because of their family and circumstances. What I want to see is a world where everyone is able to be confident in their sexuality and doesn't not have to worry about such things. My political secretary does a good job as my political secretary.'
It was quickly pointed out to the Prime Minister that the statement had passed through Downing Street's Head of Broadcast Media Kirsty Buchanan before being published. There was a not point any indication in the email that it was a personal statement rather than an official communication from the Press Office.
|The email from Kirsty Buchanan, Head of |
Broadcast Media for Downing Street.
Labour's Ben Bradshaw responded to May saying, 'How is it remotely acceptable that when a young whistleblower exposes compelling evidence of lawbreaking by the Leave campaign,implicating staff at Number 10, one of those named issues an officially-sanctioned statement outing the whistleblower as gay and putting his family in Pakistan in danger? It's a disgrace, Prime Minister, you need to do something about it.'
During an interview regarding the incident Shahmir Sanni told the press that the public revelation forced him to come out to his family in Pakistan, where homosexuality is illegal and punishable with between 2 and 10 years in prison. He said that his family is now living in fear of their safety, reducing him to tears.
'People were tweeting about this blog. I went through this blog, this 8000 word blog, and then I came across this statement. That's when I started panicking.' He said. 'I thought 'it's only Dominic Cumming's blog, no-one reads that', so I was mildly panicked. I never thought it would actually happen - I thought, they would never stoop that low.
'It was late in the evening that same day, when the New York Times called me and said, can you comment on this statement we've been sent by Number 10? I said, 'what are you talking about?' and they said, 'allegations about you being in a relationship with Stephen Parkinson'.
|Shahmir Sanni reduced to tears during his interview.|
'It was fucking shit. I came out to my mum the day before yesterday. I hate talking about it, because I get...' He said before becoming too upset to talk. 'He knew... he knew that I wasn't out to my mum. This is how low they will stoop. It's not relevant. How is my relationship with Stephen Parkinson relevant to the stuff that i am talking about?'
MP's and the public have continued to condemn Theresa May for failing to condemn what has happened to Shahmir.
Caroline Lucas, the Green Party Mp, said, 'It is simply not good enough for the Prime Minister to have airily dismissed the questions as she did in the House yesterday. Her attempts to brush off complaints about the disgraceful outing of Shahmir Sanni were beneath her and bring shame to her office.'
Labour MP Ben Bradshaw said, 'I am amazed that the man who did this is still in his job, because that's totally unacceptable.'
Tommy Shepard from the SNP added, 'The Prime Minister’s explanation yesterday that this was a personal statement by Stephen Parkinson just does not hold water. How can it be a personal statement when someone is at a desk in No. 10 Downing Street, at the heart of Government—when they are on the payroll, issuing a statement from No. 10 Downing Street?
'This must be the first occasion in history, certainly that I can remember, when the Government have decided to attack a whistleblower by outing them as gay, causing them the possibility of actual harm to themselves and their family, and it is a disgrace.'
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